I woke up early to the sound of my father's voice coated in urgency and underlined with frustration. I was a bit confused on my whereabouts realizing I slept the night away on the couch once again. He was dressed in a suit and fashionable tie and his favorite hat as usual for a Sunday morning. Oh, SUNDAY! I just knew I'd overslept and was running late for church! I leapt from where I was to respond to him when I heard him more clearly telling me to "wake up and go get in the bed with your mother." Half asleep I just began to walk while he gathered his things to go. The command itself wasn't unusual. However, it usually signifies his compassion for a moment when either I or my mother has a desperate need for the other. He sends me there when he sees the tears welling in my eyes, knows that there is something troubling my heart that he may fail to understand, or recognizes that a mother's touch and prayers are needed to ease my emotional or physical pains until I find peace. But this morning I was fine. I found her there in bed fast asleep but stretched out so recklessly that her discomfort was apparent from across the room.
I spent this morning, the morning of my 25th birthday, absent from church, lying in my mother's bed with my face pressed against her chest to ensure she had not stopped breathing. Though I am the child that still climbs in bed demanding to be coddled, today, I just needed to be sure that she was still here…
My family's ongoing struggle with health issues has been a cause of concern for each and every one of us at some point. As a child these times plagued my hope for the future, always unsure if the five of us might catch a glimpse of destiny hand in hand. Now I can also admit that while growing up this topic was also a source of so many frustrations and disappointments with the ones I loved. As if their broken bodies were a complete fault of their own, I despised the way they pressed through health issues as if nothing had ever happened at all. I sat for so long, frustrated. It drained me. I was silently waiting for whomever todays weak link may be to call on the God of their salvation and healing and correct the pain themselves so that we could all get back to life. I had seen them do it for anyone else a thousand times before. A little oil, a little prayer, an altar maybe and blue skies were here again. Oddly enough, that moment never came for us. The delay in rest would leave an abundance of time to experience the sting of anger.
I spent many nights in the emergency room with my siblings, waiting, sometimes not even knowing what for. Eventually the excitement of the vending machines and long white hallways with strangely bright lights and endless elevators slipped through our fingertips and ushered in the sadness of reality. With clouds of worry and uncertainty surrounding us we shared many hidden tears in those rooms. Tasked with spreading hugs and encouragement to a revolving door of visitors, we barely noticed their visits were more for their comfort than our own. No one really knew what to say. I doubt I'd bother to listen either way. I remember so often fidgeting in those cold hard chairs desperately trying to find comfort and get rest in such a gloomy place. Little did I know my heart was constantly attempting to do the same. More often than not, after hours of almost falling out of my seat, I only found rest when helplessly stretched across the lap of my older brother or sister. My support system in life reflected the same scarcity of peace. They were all I had and I would have to be confident that that was more than enough. It wasn't.
It took years to notice that they were desperately empty as well…
The room is silent except the low mumble of our favorite Flea Market Flip. I didn't watch. I watched her chest, it didn't move. Still. Still. *GASP*…..thank God.
I replaced my face right above her pillow, should I need to move to call for help I didn't want to startle her. Not so much because I was worried about scaring her as much as I was worried about waking her, giving her an opportunity to stop me.
*GASP* She reached for air again…..okay God.
I slid out of the bed and began to peep in the door every few minutes between throwing on clothes and tying my unbrushed hair back. We might be leaving soon….
In those days it seemed as if hospital visits were never quite far enough apart. Every time the double doors slid open the rush of air brought the oh-so-familiar antiseptic breeze across my face startling both my senses and my heart. "This way." We'd quietly search for the right hall, the right room, the right way. There wasn't much more conversation than that. We really didn't have much to say. Which was unfortunate. The routine exhaustion and fear soon became numbing, rocking us into silence. Later on it didn't take much at all. We chose silence, unknowingly lending sickness and despair the untapped volume of our failing faith. Critically discouraged, in my heart, deafening songs of pain took center stage. I slowly accepted that regardless of my fate, destiny clearly had no concern for me. I was simply a pawn of someone else’s play. It was a drama.
"Danielle! Danielle!" it was hours later and I stepped out for five minutes to take a "Happy Birthday!" phone call from an old friend. Five minutes! My thoughts raced. I practically threw the phone to the floor trying to get back up the steps. Please no, please no, please God, please, please, please, go, go, go. Suddenly I couldn't move fast enough. I was only gone five minutes! God please….. She was sitting straight up in bed and quietly asked for water and toast. Buttered toast with jelly. The Welch's not the Walmart brand I had bought. "It doesn't taste the same." Still in pain she twisted her nose up just a bit to show her disapproval with my life and jelly choices. We were going to be okay.
Have you ever been so afraid that you don't even have the words to pray? That you stop breathing for a moment thinking you may have possibly failed once and for all? That it’s all over? That your worst nightmare had come true? And not only that, but that it was your fault?
I could have sworn that there was a "sorry", "Jesus help”, “God I need you", and "God not her" in every whisper of please in my mind.
See that’s what life does. Trust me, from day to day and year to year you will never catch my family shedding tears about the things we've been through. Well maybe me as I have clearly stolen my sister's title of the "emotional one". But that doesn't mean we're okay. Your lack of tears doesn't mean you're okay.
In fact, I’ve found that emotion is so natural that the absence of it is one of the best signs that something is broken. A sign that we are broken and hiding in plain sight trying to hold back oceans of pain, regret, remorse, and fear. I know this to be a fact. I am so convinced that I often breathe a sigh of relief when the tears come because they are sincere signs of order being restored and balance reoccurring in us. They show me that freedom is coming and that lies are leaving and that the vulnerability needed to heal has just arrived. It’s a good place to be. It’s a great place to be. I don't find myself there enough, not nearly enough.
I am so prone to allow my fears or my schedule or my pain or my pride to keep me from places where I am able to shed real tears for real reasons and receive a real moment to recover. I know when it’s time. I can feel God tugging at my heart. I can feel my soul teetering, trying to balance all that I’m carrying. I can feel the Holy Spirit inhale all of the air out of the room in preparation to speak soft, smooth, special, sacred words to my heart. I feel angels stand still and take notice of me as if waiting to bear witness to a miraculous happening. I am a miraculous happening. You are a miraculous happening. Swallow that. Chug it down, wash it down with water and tears and the Word if you must but please digest the idea that you, my friend, are as sacred of a mystery as the very scrolls on which God's word was written. Your heart beat is as majestic as the twinkling of the stars your God has hung in the sky. The very voice that spoke light into existence relinquished no power, no authority, and no majesty before the moment it spoke your destiny. The very hands that formed ridges of mountains also formed you. The thoughts that determined the curves of ocean valleys determined the curve of your smile. The very being that breathes the summer breezes concerns his thoughts with your heart and your fears and your hope and your life. Rest.
See what I didn't know as a child and what I didn't even know on this very day was that I was so loved by God that the pain of these moments were only a piece of the masterful play he had written for my life. I didn't realize that although these things concerned me, they did not concern my destiny. I didn't know that his thoughts were really higher than me. I didn’t realize that he could actually see further and love deeper than what I knew him to be. I didn’t know that working for my good didn't mean that his works wouldn't always be good. I didn't know and my ignorance left way for fear that blinded me from his truths for far too long. Beloved, God is for you. At 5, at 25, at 55, at 105 he is for you. He is standing with you preparing you for the future.
It wasn’t even 90 days later that I, my father, and my mother, together would literally, physically climb a mountain hand in hand. Not 90 days. Within that time I would collapse and almost lose my life. In that time the Lord would use the pain of our reality to start a revolution in my heart. In that time he would use the pain of my past to catapult me into his divine future with no opportunity to forget exactly who I needed to carry with me. Not even 90 days later I would catch a glimpse of glory when it became clear that we, as a family, could be in the best health of our lives, at a time that felt "late" in our lives. But that when it happened now I would be able to bring a movement of individuals behind me.
So often we forget that God is bigger than the moment where we felt the most pain and the most hurt. So often we refuse to acknowledge that though we chose to obsess over today's pain that God did not dwell in that moment when writing our story. I say "so often" so much. But it’s true. We do these things all the time. We doubt all the time. We lie all the time, to the world and ourselves. We lose focus every day. We let pain stifle and hinder us every time it crosses our paths. We push away the words you have given to our hearts and turn our backs on you and opt to be rocked to death by our fear. We take moments like watching our parents gasp for air and we steal them from you and use them to excuse ourselves. We do not heal, we do not pray, we do not believe. We snatch them from your hands in hopes that they cannot work for our good, that maybe you won’t have the chance to develop patience, perseverance, character, hope, or gold in us. But that maybe if we can hide them in our anger and in our hearts and in our bitterness maybe we can fashion them into pity and despair that you might give us a pass on growth. That maybe you might let us lay here and die and praise us for our victimization rather than require us to grow past it. We pray only that you would fix things to a point where you can remain accountable for it. Fix things God, but do not fix us. Do not fix our dirty hearts to enable us to march on. Do not enable us to climb because then we will be required to do so. Even as a small child I am guilty of this. Some might say, well at some age you didn’t know better, but that wouldn’t be the truth. I refuse to speak for my siblings, but I will stand in the truth that my parents raised me in a way that gave me a true relationship with a God that was ever-present even at that age. A God that was always reaching out his hand, not to pet me, not coddle me or even some days to wipe my tears but that the extended a hand that bore a sword. A sword that could free us from our prison and that I refused to take.
His hand extended help, not to the top of the mountain but up to my feet. The feet I could command to carry me to the summit under my own authority.
There was more that I could do. I could have prayed. I could have been the one. I will be the one. Never again will I lie quietly alongside my sisters and my brothers in pain consoling them and pitying them for being as broken as the Lord has ordained for them to be. Never again will I refuse to sit quietly on the measure of faith I have already been allotted for the obstacle ahead. Never again will I allow the fear of failure, of death, of humiliation or pain silence me into submission. Knowing only one master can be served in each breath I refuse to place pain in the space reserved for the God who delivers. Every moment spent being a victim is a moment void of faith and the resilience to be blessed beyond the circumstances. I’ll no longer take part in such a shameful surrender.
25 is the year I caught fire. 25 is the year that I made up my mind. 25 is the year that I wrestled with the Lord and lost….finally. I lost fear and guilt and the willingness to play myself small in efforts to go unnoticed by heaven but embraced by Earth. No regrets. No shame. No time to just “let life happen”. The year I decided to move, to lead, to only fight forward. To be broken and humble and consequently great. 25 is the moment when glory became a reality because self sacrifice became a priority. The moment where I realized that being blessed has far more to do with being obedient than it does with being talented and that promotion has much more to do with be willing than it does with being ready. I chose to trust again to love again to hurt and recover one more time and be okay. Okay with everything or okay with nothing, so long as the God who ordained the day was pleased with me. 25 is the year that I decided to own my truth and share it without pretense or apology. 25 is the year that he showed me that the truth surely makes me free, and that my chains may only be the first that my truth will break.
I believed that God could heal, deliver, and set us free. I learned that the anointing necessary to accomplish those miracles can only flow through us when we are void of fear and full of faith. I decided to be used. I lost a beautiful dream for the future and collided with destiny and grace instead. I lost an unblemished reputation but gained freedom in the truth. I realized that uncomfortable moments were the ones that taught me the most if I would only let purpose prevail. I took an active role in my deliverance and it made all the difference. I made up my mind that pleasing the Lord was mandatory even at my own expense. It hurt. It healed. It’s given me strength for today.
I pray that wherever you are and whatever stands in front of you that you begin to understand the undeniable power of grace. That you embrace the reality that your weaknesses and past are irrelevant in regards to destiny…all because of grace. That as you read your Word and find relationship with God and your footing in this life that you truly grow in the understanding of grace and how it qualifies you for life even when your doubts say otherwise. I pray that you welcome the truth and shun the decencies that routinely keep you bound. That you invite yourself into glory filled rooms knowing that your need for God is greater than your desire to appear needless. I pray that you grow. That you grow in grace and the understanding of Jesus Christ. That it blesses your today, your yesterday, and your forever.